Travel Note

20th April 2019

There was a time not too long ago when the majority of coaster enthusiasts heading to China were of the shameless credit whoring subspecies. Itineraries were heavy with "gems" such as Golden Horse Spinning Coasters, knock-off SLCs, and other not terribly well built death machines from brands such as Hebei Zhongye Metallurgical Equipment Manufacturing. There was little of interest to the more sensible traveller.

In recent years the picture has changed. Over a hundred western designs now grace parks all over the country, including installations from B&M, GCI, Intamin, Mack, M&V, and Vekoma. Better yet, the local manufacturers have upped their game considerably, to the point that recent builds from Chang Long, Golden Horse, Qin Long, and Zhongshan Kangle Entertainment are respectable attractions that can be enjoyed without the necessity of defensive riding. There are still plenty of "useful additions to the park" to be found, but their number is gradually diminishing as time goes on; it is telling that over forty percent of the coasters I rode in China between 2008 and 2013 have been scrapped as of this writing, despite many being less than ten years old.

The one major warning I'd give to enthusiasts contemplating a trip to the People's Republic is that operations can be frustrating for those used to major western parks. Dispatch intervals in excess of ten minutes are commonplace, and signature rides often have arbitrary age, weight, and height limits that make no sense at all. Despite the challenges however the parks have much to enjoy, provided that one can relax and go with the flow. Those who lose sleep at the thought of missed credits should probably focus their travels elsewhere, while those that can handle adversity with good-natured stoicism should have an enjoyable experience.

 

Century Park Shanghai

20th April 2019

My trip began with a day to myself in Shanghai, as my friends Bruno and Anita were not due to arrive until the evening. I thought about going to Happy Valley Shanghai, but I decided on reflection that I'd rather use the time to mop up as many small credits as possible. Opening hours proved difficult to come by, but Candice was able to confirm that Century Park opened at 08:00, making it as good a place to start as any. The park has an eponymous metro station, but I decided to follow the advice on RCDB which recommended exit five of Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology Station instead. The walk from the train platform to the ride area took around fifteen minutes at a moderate pace, including the time taken to pay the 10 RMB (~€1.32) admission fee.

Century Park

Flying Car (#2593) is a Golden Horse Family Coaster, instantly recognisable to most readers as a near-identical facsimile of the Vekoma 207m Junior Coaster. It is one of twenty-three installations of the type to date, a substantial number despite the fact that the knock-off has only been available since 2013; it wouldn't surprise me if it becomes even more prevalent than the omnipresent spinning coaster in a few years. It is a vastly superior ride; the sixteen passenger train features individual lap bars that close with a satisfyingly solid click, and unusually for China there is no secondary restraint. The tracking is as good if not better than the original, making it well worth the 30 RMB (~€3.97) ticket price.

 

People's Park Shanghai

20th April 2019

My second stop was at People's Square Station, where exit ten took me directly to the entrance of People's Park. I was in the process of taking a few photos around the entrance when I was accosted by a local who launched into an impromptu history lesson in passable English. I wasn't paying a huge amount of attention, but I did manage to assimilate the fact that the Park Hotel, an eighty-four metre tall building nearby, was the tallest in Asia from 1934-1958. He also told me about the Shanghai Marriage Market, an interesting local tradition that I got to see up close.

In due course I managed to shake him and made my way to Family Roller Coaster (#2594), a locally-built copy of the Zamperla Speedy Coaster comprising a drop, a descending helix, and a turnaround. The train had a single fixed-position bar for each row, though there was no real advantage to this in a design devoid of airtime. The ride was comfortable, if dull; I was given three laps for my money, which was two more than I needed.

 

Zhongshan Park Shanghai

20th April 2019

I'd not planned to stop at Zhongshan Park today, as Bruno had included it in our shared routing for later in the week, but I was around thirty minutes ahead of my planned schedule and I figured that I might as well take advantage of the sunshine. It took me about ten minutes to walk to the rides from exit four of the eponymous station, picked at random as I couldn't find a local area map.

Zhongshan Park

Inertia Train (#2595) looks and feels like a double helix Wisdom Rides Dragon Wagon, though it is (as ever) a locally-built copy. The experience today was every bit as rickety as the original, with the descending helix managing to rattle badly despite a top speed that barely hits double figures. The ride cost 10 RMB (~€1.32) per person, though the lady at the ticket desk allegedly had no change, meaning I got stung for 50 RMB (~€6.60) instead. I could have ridden five times, but that would have been a dumb move even my by standards; I decided instead to donate the spare credit to my friends.

 

Gucun Park

20th April 2019

Gucun Park is an enormous urban park located to the north of Shanghai. There is a large car park at the eastern end, though most enthusiasts will likely use the dedicated metro stop close to the end of line seven (orange). The walk from the station entrance to the roller coaster is around one and a half kilometres, and considerably longer if you go the wrong way as I did; those retracing my steps should plan accordingly. Gate admission costs 20 RMB (~€2.64), though it is included within a number of package deals that might be of interest to those contemplating more than a hit and run; today there were options that covered an animatronic dinosaur exhibit and various other attractions.

Most of the rides within the park have been consolidated in to a space close to the southern boundary of the site, but two can be found in their own area closer to the entrance. One of these is a standard Carousel and not worthy of note, but readers should definitely make the time for Castle Cry, a target shooting dark ride with a horror theme that has been installed inside a natural cavern. The scoring system wasn't working in my car, but each target I hit changed colour from red to green, causing different things to happen. More senior enthusiasts should bear in mind that this ride is strictly forbidden to those over seventy years old (see above); I saw an elderly local with grandchild in tow arguing with the ticket seller before walking off with an unhappy expression on his face.

Castle Cry

The main ride area looked absolutely pristine, which turned out to be because it was; much of the original hardware was stripped out during 2018, including the Spinning Coaster which one presumes to have gone to the great midway in the sky. In its place stood Flying Car (#2596), a duplicate of the machine I'd ridden a few hours earlier at Century Park. I'd not expected to renew my acquaintance with the standard design quite so quickly, but I figured that it'd be rude not to, and thus I handed over 30 RMB (~€3.97) for a solitary lap. Afterwards I took advantage of the steps up to a cycle railway for a few low effort overhead photographs.

 

Binjiang Forest Park

20th April 2019

Binjiang Forest Park is not currently reachable by the Shanghai Metro, though that will be changing soon; there are a number of stations under construction in the vicinity that are expected to open over the next few years. Those who lament the inability of western countries to build public transport might be interested to know that the authorities in Shanghai have commissioned seventeen complete metro lines since the turn of the millennium, and they are currently tunnelling for four more. The local network is projected to reach five hundred miles of track by the end of 2020.

Rather than wait for a few years I decided to get to the park using DiDi, a local equivalent to Uber. This worked very well for the outbound journey; a car picked me up in less than five minutes, and the twenty minute journey from Gucun Park cost just 60 RMB (~€7.95). Readers should be aware that it was much harder to get a car from the park; I ended up waiting the better part of an hour, and there were no taxis available either. Those planning a quick hit should probably consider paying their driver to wait for them.

The park has a handful of amusement rides located in an area roughly six hundred metres from the entrance gate. In an unusual move these are not grouped together; instead, they have been fit into appropriate spaces within the existing landscaped gardens. The highlight of the collection is Pine Forest Flying Mouse (#2597), a thrilling design that was everything that a good mouse coaster should be. The cars built up a good speed on their way around the course, and I found myself thrown into the side of the car at each turn. Tickets cost just 10 RMB (~€1.32) and I decided to ride a second time given that I wouldn't be returning any time soon.

Binjiang Forest Park

 

Gongqing Forest Park

20th April 2019

Gongqing Forest Park was by some margin the busiest park on my list today, to the point that I had to queue for several minutes to buy a 15 RMB (~€1.99) admission ticket despite arriving in the middle of the afternoon. I'd hoped to renew my acquaintance with the Bobkart, but there were at least fifty people waiting in a line that was barely moving. Rather than write off the rest of my day I decided to do a hit-and-run for the two new coasters, both of which were like-for-like replacements of rides that I'd experienced back in 2009.

On the way to my targets I discovered that the Roller Coaster ceased operation in January, a closure that will likely have a material impact on the number of people presenting to the casualty department in the local hospital. Those who never managed to tick off the credit are advised to consider its demise to be the work of a benevolent deity determined to save coaster counters from themselves.

Both operational credits required a bespoke 10 RMB (~€1.32) ticket. My first hit was Inertia Roller Coaster (#2598), a mouse coaster that wasn't running particularly well today. The ride felt distinctly sluggish in comparison to the superb machine at Binjiang Forest Park, and worse yet there were a number of significant bumps where track segments were joined together; it was hard to believe that the hardware was less than five years old. I much preferred the experience of Golden Dragon Roller Coaster (#2599), a super-sized Wacky Worm; I'd have gone back for a second lap given more time.

 

Huangxing Park

20th April 2019

It began to spit rain as I was leaving Gongqing Forest Park, and the weather degenerated further as I walked towards the nearby metro station. The forecast on my phone indicated that the skies should clear in thirty minutes, but despite that I seriously considered aborting my planned stop at Huangxing Park on the basis that the powered coaster listed on RCDB would be unlikely to operate with damp track. I was tired, and the idea of a little less walking held considerable appeal. Nevertheless, after some contemplation I decided that I'd regret not giving the place a look.

Huangxing Park

On arrival I discovered that the ride I'd expected to find had been removed in favour of Dragons (#2600), an exceptionally pathetic gravity coaster with a height differential of around two feet. I'd not expected to record a ton-up on a horizontally stretched copy of the Golden Horse Fruit Worm, but the decision was taken out of my hands. My five lap cycle was enough to comfortably grant the ride a place among the ten best coasters of the day. I've since learned that the design is available to anyone who can spare USD $28,211.20 and a large garden.

 

Heping Park

20th April 2019

Soon afterwards I'd returned to the metro for a short journey to Siping Road, the closest station to Heping Park. It was around half an hour before closing by the time I arrived, and given that I headed directly for the coaster on my hit list. The operator on Fruit Buggy Coaster (#2601) raised his eyebrows as I approached, but was more than happy to sell me a 20 RMB (~€2.64) ticket that entitled me to five entertaining laps. After disembarking I decided to finish my day with a courtesy ride on Outer Space Flying Car.